Review by Setnaro X
"Forget Sonic R! (You Probably Already Did Anyway.....)"
Sonic Riders, Sonic's second racing game (but not a sequel to Sonic R in anyway, despite all who believe such nonsense). Anyway, Sonic Riders has Sonic and the gang racing in futuristic sceneries (ala F-Zero GX) while riding on hoverboards. Sounds great, right? Read on if you want to know!
Most racing games don't need a story to the tie game together. For Sonic Riders, the story is exceptional. Basically, Sonic and his friends run into a Gang of Birds (while searching for an Emerald). This particular gang had the Emerald, so it was up to them to stop them. One of them drops a board, to which Sonic decides to use (fighting fire with fire) but he was no match. Meanwhile, Eggman has issued a race. The prize: The 7 Chaos Emeralds (Who saw that coming?). Sonic and his friends now race for the Emerald, and realize the gang has entered too. "Team Babylon" is their new rivals on the track, and all heck breaks loose.
At first look, you'd think this game would be a play out as F-Zero GX (probably because it looks and feels like one), but it ain't. This game has a short, and yet a deep, learning curve. Most Sonic fans would get the hang of it in 30 minutes. Most casual players would probably give up in 10 minutes. The gameplay can best be compared with Kirby Air Ride. There are no acceleration buttons, you merely fly on your own. But unlike Kirby, you actually will need to steer. The tracks in which you race are fully detailed with roads, curves, junctions, vehicles, and of course, shortcuts. The first time you play the game, you'll be absolutely lost with the sheer amount of details in the track. The characters you use are separated into 3 groups: Speed, Power, and Flight. Basically, speeds can grind, powers can push off obstacles, and flight can well, fly. And on top of racing, you can pull of tricks and stunts. It's not as detailed as Tony Hawk. Granted, the way to pull off a trick is to time your jump off a ramp, and then press the control stick in any direction to do a trick. The better your jump, the faster your rotations, thus, the more your tricks. Why the need for tricks? Pull off insane stunts, and you'll receive more air, the gas you're HoverBoard, Air Skate, and Bikes need. Talking about air, any character ahead of you can leave behind a turbulence (which, coincidentally, becomes a half-pipe to which you can use to do tricks. And to catch up if you're too lazy to use the roads). Turning in this game takes some time. If you played too much F-Zero GX, you'll be thrown WAY off. Using the L and R button to pull off a tight turn is better said then done, probably because it's not that you turn the moment you press, you'll only rotate on axis of your body (meaning, you'll still race in the direction you're going, you're just merely rotating a 180 degree turn in doing so) instead of immediately turning the moment you use the top buttons. As I said, it takes some time to get used to the gameplay, but once you do, it will be fun time for a long time.
Speaking more in detail, the features of the game are pretty cool. You got your regular free Race, the Grand Prix (from story mode) Mission Mode (pull off the tasks they ask you to) Tag Mode (2 teams share air tanks) Battle Mode (race with an Emerald, or fight off with your attacks) and Time Attack. In Gameplay, you can buy more vehicles for your characters. So much stuff to do, I still wonder: How do unlock the other characters?
As I said before, at first glance, this feels like F-Zero GX. The amount of details in a single track are a wonder. Though not as much as F-Zero GX, this gets the job done right. It definetly pulls off the feel of a futurstic style racing game. The special f/x of the game are amazing too. Learning from Shadow the Hedgehog, the distortions come back, and they do a good job displaying the sugar for our Eyes (eye-candy, ha! That's funny to me). From the air, to the fire, to the blazing heat of a desert, it all works well. And with all the details going on, the game stays firmly at 60 frames per second. Also learning from Shadow the Hedgehog, the CGI clips in the game are amazing, and yet there's such a low amount. The intro for the game takes a Sonic CD approach. Rather than a 3D intro, they went for the hand-drawn animated intro, so amazing.
The soundtrack for the game is quite different from what we expected in the 3D Sonic series. Rather than having the usual alternative style J-Rock (with some heavy metal on occasions), usually provided by Crush 40, we are now given Futuristic, Techno J-Rock, with little on the heavy or grunge side. While not what people may have wanted, it fits the game perfectly, even if it is subtle. It's an OK turn, and I'll let it pass since we need a different music in a game that made a different turn in gameplay in the first place. Heck, the music is starting to grow on me a lot.
The sound effects for the game are worth noting. From the sounds of Air whooshing about, the characters yelling about, and the crashes and spins, whatever, it's all good. And the game is presented in Dolby Pro Logic II. The surround mix of the game is absolutely perfect (whether it's the music or the sounds coming from behind you), you'll really feel you're in the crowd, so for those Surround Sound Freaks (like me) you'll really have a blast tuning up the volume.
The final thought? This game is more suitable for hard-core Sonic fans in the end, unless you're a simple gamer who wants to take the time to learn the slightly awkward mechanics of the game. Amazingly, this is the only game that I've given a 10 for. It's that much fun, and you'll realize it's time consuming. While not as detailed as F-Zero GX, it can still be on par. Have fun, but please, don't run out of air!
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 02/24/06
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